12 August – 70th anniversary of Geneva Conventions for Protection of War Victims


On August 12, 1949, under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Geneva Conventions were adopted, which are the basis of international humanitarian law and aimed at ensuring comprehensive protection for victims of war. The Geneva Conventions were crucial for humanization and settlement of such an ambiguous and dangerous part of international relations as military operations.

This set of critical international agreements was developed based on the dramatic experience of the Second World War, treaties and practices of the previous years (in particular, the Hague Convention on War on Land of 1907 and a number of others) in order to prevent the recurrence of tragic events, as well as improve social and the humanitarian situation of persons in the context of hostilities. In the 21st century, the total number of countries that have ratified the Geneva Conventions is close to two hundred, and now they are universally applied by states throughout the world.

The Geneva Conventions include four basic documents:

– Geneva  Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field;

– Geneva Convention (II) for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea;

– Geneva Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War;

– Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War.

A number of armed conflicts of the second half of the twentieth century, including wars of national liberation, revealed the need to expand the legal norms applicable in combat operations. This led to the adoption in 1977 of two Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions:

– Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I);

– Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II).

In addition, in 2005, Additional Protocol III was put into effect. It regulates the use of an additional distinctive emblem – the red crystal, which can be used along with the emblems of the red cross and red crescent.

Compliance with the requirements and norms of international humanitarian law guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions is of particular importance in times of armed conflict in Donbass. As part of her activities, the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic brings information about the relevant violations by the armed forces of Ukraine and the Ukrainian authorities to international human rights organizations. These facts are reflected in thematic reports, as well as recommendations of representatives of the world community aimed at improving the socio-humanitarian situation in the region, ensuring the observance of the rights and freedoms of Donbass residents.